She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
Naseeb Mohammad Shaikh lost 11 members of the family she had married into, and 14 members of her parents’ families during the 2002 Gujarat riots. Since then, she has been a prime initiator of peace and communal harmony, leading the fight for rights for the minority communities in and around Gujarat’s Kalol region. At last count, she was fighting 37 cases of atrocities, including ones by the police. She comes from a well-off Muslim family of landowners.
Born in Delol village in Panchmahal, Gujarat, she married Mohammad-bhai of the same village in 1989. At the time of the Gujarat communal riots of 2002, she had a daughter of 13 and a son aged 11.
During the riots, 11 members of the family she married into, and 14 members of her parents’ families, were butchered, including her parents, her husband and her daughter, who was raped in front of her relatives before being killed. Naseeb escaped death only because she was in hospital undergoing a minor surgery. She was left with her son and ostracism from her village. She had to seek refuge in a rehabilitation colony in Kalol, which is where she has been since.
But unlike most refugees in the colony, Naseeb refused to let the magnitude of her loss overwhelm her into paralysis. Finding many widowed women and helpless children, she took it upon herself to help them. She started small, listening to their stories, taking them to hospital, filing papers for compensation, liaising with the relief agencies – she became pretty much a one-woman army as far as the refugees’ requirements were concerned … (1000peacewomen 1/2).
Sorry, no downloadable photo found of Naseeb Mohammad Shaikh – India.
Naseeb Mohammad Shaikh did not allow her incalculable personal loss and grief to overwhelm her social conscience-if she lost her family to the 2002 Gujarat riots, so did thousands of others.
She works for Aman Samuday *.
(1000peacewomen 2/2): … After moving out of the rehabilitation colony with the help of local social workers, Naseeb shifted into a small house in Kalol with her son. There, she accepted a more substantial role as a social worker, becoming very active in highlighting legal cases and rehabilitation issues to various agencies and the media.
Soon after, Naseeb started work with SEWA. Naseeb was with the social organization for six months, during which time she traveled around the villages in the vicinity to work with riot-affected women and children. No constructive change in the lives of the people was possible for obvious reasons, and although Naseeb managed to make life easier for the people she met and interacted with, a limit soon imposed itself. In April 2003, she quit SEWA to join Aman Samuday, an organization trying to propel people towards peace and communal harmony through awareness. Naseeb fit neatly into the scheme of things.
She moved from village to village, spreading the message of peace, justice, communal harmony, and a common humanity. Her own experiences were the greatest example she placed in front of the affected: she plunged headlong into issues concerning the marginalized.
One of her first campaigns was against a local maulana, a Muslim cleric who ran a relief camp. The frisson began when the maulana was distributing handcarts to the affected, hoping that they would use the carts to start small businesses and become self-sufficient. When Naseeb approached the maulana for a cart, he abused her, charging her with conduct unbecoming of a Muslim widow. His position in the community ensured that he received more support than Naseeb did. She retaliated by mobilizing a small army of women to demand their rights.
When in Eral village, she was confronted with the age-old caste divide – Dalits were refused drinking water from the public handpumps. Negotiating with the local panchayat, Naseeb managed to get a handpump sanctioned only for the Dalit community. In Eral, she built a home for Pushpaben, an elderly Dalit woman who lacked shelter. Aman Samuday provided only the cost of materials; Naseeb herded together enough people from the community to build the house.
Naseeb’s work is not limited to the Muslim and other minority communities. In Eral, she formed a Peace Committee with representatives from all communities, including the majority Hindus. The Peace Committee, or Aman Parivar, is still active.
Today, Naseeb has become a one-stop shop, so to speak, for underprivileged people looking for justice. At last count, she was fighting 37 cases of atrocities, including by the police, against villagers. She has also been a regular at forums that discuss injustices relating to the Godhra incident. She accompanied an investigating officer from New Delhi to villages to investigate the Delol massacre, on which the police has filed no chargesheets so far. Recently, Naseeb took part in an international peace conference in New Delhi where she amplified on the violation of human rights of marginalized societies in the villages of Gujarat.
Having set up workable peace-building models, Naseeb has become a role model herself, for both future generations and for people working for social development and empowerment. Her loss has, literally, become the people’s gain. (on 1000peacewomen).
A tale of one city – Godhra revisited, February 04, 2007: … When the first riots in Godhra happened in 1980, it had already eschewed its rights to development. A huge industrial project by the Gujarat Industrial development Corporation was taken away and established at Halol and Khalol, 25 kms away. The family of Naseem Mohammad Sheikh lived in Halol, and was among the several Muslim families in the area that thrived because of the growth of the industrial centre.
Naseem Sheikh’s family grew vegetables and also traded in them. When Godhra happened, the images on television and newspapers incited a blaze of anger among the locals. Twenty members of her family were brutally hacked to death. The dead included her husband, her 16-year old daughter who was also raped and her parents. Ironically, she learnt that the man who killed her husband and her daughter was none other than the Hindu vegetable trader who “almost grew up in our house”.
Naseem was one of the few women who rose from the riots to spread the message of communal harmony. Today, she lives in a relief camp set up by NGOs. There are 11 widows, all young and with children, in Kasimabad, near Halol-Kalol where she lives. Except for Naseem, all the women saw their husbands being slaughtered. Two of the women, including Naseem’s sister-in-law, were raped. Naseem is left with a son who she hopes will turn out to be a model citizen. There is no “rancour for Hindus” in her, she stresses. “But I will fight for justice.”
* Search by key word Aman Samuday:
Gujarat: Demand for justice in the wake of the revelations in the Tehelka expose, CIVIL SOCIETY PROTESTS IN GUJARAT;
Imagine Now, The World We Almost Killed;
A committee of Dalits and Muslims in Ahmedabad’s walled city area spreads the message of communal harmony;